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Should Vegans Have the Same Protections as Religious People? A 'Landmark' Case Will Decide
In the UK, it is unlawful for an employer to fire an employee based on their religion or belief. By the same token, is it ok for an employer to fire an employee if they are ethical vegans?
The question of whether vegans have the same anti-discrimination protections as religious people under UK law will be answered at an employment tribunal next March—the first case of its kind in Britain.
Jordi Casamitjana, 54, is an ethical vegan who claims he was dismissed in April by his former employer League Against Cruel Sports "after I blew the whistle that their pension fund was being invested in companies involved in animal testing," he wrote on his crowdfunding page.
In response, the animal welfare charity told CNN it is a "vegan friendly employer." A spokesperson said that Casamitjana was fired for "gross misconduct," not for his dietary preferences.
"The discussion about veganism being a 'philosophical belief' is a thought-provoking one which many of our staff will be interested in—however this debate has absolutely no connection with why Mr. Casamitjana was sacked," the spokesperson added.
Vegans abstain from consuming animals and animal products, but there's a difference between those who do it for health reasons (dietary vegans), or those who do it for moral or environmental reasons.
"Some people only eat a vegan diet but they don't care about the environment or the animals, they only care about their health," Casamitjana, who has been an ethical vegan for 17 years, explained the BBC.
"I care about the animals and the environment and my health and everything," he added. "That's why I use this term 'ethical veganism' because for me veganism is a belief and affects every single aspect of my life."
Under UK law, veganism must adhere to the following points to qualify as a philosophical belief:
- Be genuinely held,
- Be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behavior,
- Attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance,
- Be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others,
- Be a belief, not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available
Casamitjana's law firm, Bindmans LLP, said in a press release it was "bringing a landmark case."
"If successful, the case will protect ethical vegans from discrimination on the grounds of their belief," the firm said.
Interestingly, Casamitjana's case has legs. When Quartz presented this question to three philosophers, they all agreed that veganism met the requirements of a philosophical belief and deserved the same legal protection as religion.
"I think it's a sounder belief than any of the religions," Peter Singer, utilitarian philosopher at Princeton University, told the publication. "I think veganism rests on a strong moral foundation. It's clearly a deep belief, it affects your life and the way you behave and outlook on the world, and I think should count as philosophical belief."
If the tribunal also agrees, the discrimination claim will proceed to a full trial, according to the BBC. Casamitjana's hearing is set for March 13 and 14.
There was similar case in the U.S., in which a court rejected the argument that veganism was merely an eating habit. In Chenzira v. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, a federal district court in Ohio found that the sincerely held belief of a vegan employee—who was fired for rejecting the flu vaccine because it was grown in chicken eggs—may support a religious discrimination claim and merited protection under the law. The case was ultimately settled out of court in 2013.
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By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.